It's been another wonderfully book-filled year, and below are five of our fabulous favourites, including board books for early listeners and chapterbooks for new readers.
Wishing you all a brilliant 2018!
Little Red by Bethan Woollvin, published by Two Hoots
The cover of this book sets a tone of subversion from the off. This isn't going to be a straightforward retelling. Black lines against a stark white backdrop, depicting a girl's fringe and side-eyes stare, are surrounded by a blood-red hood. The inside cover shows the girl, hands on hips, amidst a bleak forest - she is a Scandi-noir Little Red who is not in a mood to be messed with.
Asked to take some cake to her poorly grandma, she sets off, not looking too impressed by the prospect. The wolf, whose teeth literally fill the page, approaches her, and growls. We are told this "might have scared some little girls. But not this little girl". The wolf makes a plan, but so does Little Red.
We won't reveal the truly brilliant and shocking ending in this post. Let's just say that if I'd been drinking tea at the time of reading this book it might have been splurted across the room.
Ottaline by Chris Riddell, published by MacMillan Children's Book
A highlight of our year has been discovering the surrealist world of Ottaline by former Children's Laureate Chris Riddell. Ottaline is a resident of the Pepperpot Building, situated in the heart of a fantastical metropolis. She is the daughter of parents in abstentia - roving collectors, professors and international travellers - who keep in touch with postcards and letters which are sent and received intermittently.
Ottaline is left in the care of a medley of service providers, who keep an eye out for her while she and her companion, Mr Munroe, a small hairy Norwegian troll, pursue a series of adventures.
In Ottaline at Sea (the third of the series but the first we read), Mr Munroe sets off alone for Norway to find the bog that was once his home. We follow him, accompanying Ottaline as she seeks to be reunited and bring him back, adorned with wonderful outfits and an array of oversized hats and sunglasses. In this and others in the Ottaline series, readers are immersed in the witty prose and astonishing, intricate detail of the illustrations, bringing to life Ottaline's world in a feast for our eyes and an enrichment for our imaginations.
We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury, published by Walker Books
A few months ago, when our nearly two year old became quite obsessed with 'Bear Hunt' we decided to order it in board book form to preserve our original copy.This more robust version is a perfect size for little hands, and still big enough for Helen Oxenbury's beautiful whimsical illustrations to be appreciated. Her swishy swashy grass seems to actually sway in the gentle breeze. You can almost feel and hear the squelching mud.
And the words! They are enticing, addictive, immersive and fun. Who can resist joining in with the "Hoooo Woooo's" of the swirling whirling snowstorm? Or doing the actions of stumble trip. Both our daughters mastered "uh oh" and "oh no!" at a very young age thanks to Michael Rosen and Bear Hunt.
Blocks: Let's Share by Irene Dickson, published by Nosy Crow
Our youngest daughter, who is soon to be two, is very loyal to her favourite books, often requesting them over and over again in one sitting. One such current favourite is this simple, lovely board book, which is fitting to feature on International Day of Peace. It's theme is sharing and, ultimately, learning that there is more pleasure to be had in collaboration than division.
The book starts with a peaceful scene of Ruby, building with her red blocks, whilst wearing her shiny red shoes and red stripy top. Ruby is content until...along comes Benji with his enticing blue cart full of blue blocks. For a while, Ruby and Benji play side by side, each with their own coloured blocks.
After a while the allure of Ruby's red blocks becomes too much for Benji and he helps himself to one, much to Ruby's dismay: "Ruby wants her red block back" and they grapple it between them, until - turning to our daughter's favourite double page spread - "CRASH", and they and the blocks all come tumbling down. Ruby, who has lost a shoe in the melee, and Benji sit amongst the mixed up blocks looking forlorn and rosy cheeked. Happily, it doesn't take the toddlers long to find a new and better way to play - "together" - with both the red and the blue blocks.
Peace is restored and they harmoniously build a magnificent tower of red and blue blocks. But wait: Here's Guy, with a cart full of green blocks! Guy is smiling though, and the sense at the end of the book is that these toddlers will soon find a way to incorporate a third party into their play. Beautiful, bright, block colour illustrations are a perfect match for the crisp, clear language. It's an ideal choice visually and verbally for an early listener and early reader, and is sure to remain a firm favourite in our home.
Rabbit's Nap by Julia Donaldson (words) and Axel Scheffler (illustrations), published by Macmillan Children's Books
This title in the Acorn Wood series is one of our younger daughters most read board books. "Babbit", she calls (which is also her name for her much adored bunny comforter) and "again" she demands, as the final page is read.
The magical combination of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is internationally acclaimed, and this book is no exception. Here their words and pictures alchemy tells the story of a tired Rabbit who simply wants somewhere to sleep. No matter where she goes, a neighbour is making noise - from a builder bear to a wood-chopping fox.
Filled with delightful details (such as carrot curtains) and told with a gentle rhyme, the story is enhanced by clever flaps that reveal each of the noise-makers in turn.